Thursday, June 23, 2005

Burn Our Flag, Not Our Freedoms

    On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the Senate, would make desecration of the American flag illegal.

    Republican representative Randy Cunningham of California used the tragedy of 9/11 (is there really any other way?) to explain his support for the amendment saying,"Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment." Mr. Cunningham failed to provide any contact information however.

    The Democratic representative Jerrold Nadler replied,"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." Nadler is, semi-ironically, a representative from New York. But what do New Yorkers know about 9/11 anyway?

    The fact of the matter is that the passage of the amendment sets a very dangerous precedent in the war against our freedoms of free speech. It sends the message that some forms of peaceful protest against the government are not allowed. It says that because some things are revered regardless of circumstance by part of the population that it is illegal for others to criticize it. It comes as no surprise that this idea would be held by so many in a religious society where criticism of other's irrational beliefs is characterized as being intolerant. If the flag is a symbol of our freedom and democracy and that is why we cannot desecrate it, how much different is it to say that our elected President is a symbol of freedom and democracy and thus should not be criticized?

    Besides sending the message that you are limited in the way that you may criticize the government, what else does the amendment accomplish? Not much. Are we going to stem the widespread phenomenon of flag-burning in America? Have you ever seen an American flag being burned (besides TV footage from foreign countries)? Unless you lived during the Vietnam War, probably not.

    But why burn a flag to protest? There are other legal means of showing your dissatisfaction. Well, just because there are other avenues does not mean that we shouldn't be free to decide. If you think about it, flag burning can attract attention to a cause that other forms of peaceful protest, like posters and fliers, can't. If I'm driving down the road and I see this out of the corner of my eye

        I'll probably think that it's this

    However a burning flag is more likely to get attention and people will understand how troubling you believe a part of U.S. policy to be. As it was during the Vietnam War, when you have friends and family who are dying for a war that you believe we shouldn't be fighting, is it that extreme for you to burn a mass-produced polyester flag? Would people take your problems as seriously if you made some stupid poster? Probably not.

    Is it not strange to say that we are not free to burn the flag because it's a symbol of our freedom?


Aaron Kinney said...

You point out the irony quite well. Bravo.

I Am said...

I love the United States of America. I consider myself privileged to live here. I am a patriot to the core, and I wear an American flag pin on my lapel constantly. I follow flag etiquette to the letter because I feel that a symbol of the country I love so much deserves that kind of respect. When others do things like let a flag touch the ground or fly it at night without it being properly lit, it upsets me, and I let them know it. However, I am not foolish enough to mistake the symbol for that which it symbolizes. Old Glory is the emblem of our freedom, and freedom trumps the flag. While I feel strongly that people should respect the flag, I will not hesitate to defend their right not to. In fact, I am so livid about this piece of legislation, it makes me want to burn a flag to show my love for it.

On another note, the Christians in Congress should watch their step. I'm pretty sure supporting a ban on flag burning is idolatry.

bleedingisaac said...

I am not a patriot of any country. I appreciate the United States and am glad that I am not in a country with less freedoms. I do not gain my identity, however, from the place I live. I live in Glendale, California, but I would not attack Burbank over a land dispute. I would not go to war against Nevada or Utah.

Political lines are artificial divisions of a shared planet. My allegiance is to the other sentient beings who share this blue-green planet with me.


I'm human
residing on a
particularly named
harboring no
peculiar alliegence,
I'm human.
Nor city,
nor state,
nor country,
I'm human.

Having said that, though, I think flag-burning is the stupidest form of protest. What does one gain from it besides pissing people off? What does a message gain from pissing people off? If anything, it causes people to stop listening to their objections and 'rally to the flag.' I don't want it to be illegal, I just don't want it to be done.

Delta said...

I agree with both of your comments and want to clarify that I, personally, would most likely never burn a U.S. flag in protest, but that I understand how doing so could be considered effective to some audiences. It at least can bring attention to the issue.

GeneralZod said...

I wonder how loosely the amendment would be worded, or laws forbidding such burning. Could one get around it by burning a flag with 12 or 14 stripes, or 49 or 51 stars? (49 might still be considered an American Flag and might be covered since the flag had 49 stars between the time when Alaska was a state but before Hawaii, but 51 would not be an American Flag since we have yet to have 51 states).
how about burning a picture or photograph of a flag?

boywonder said...

GeneralZod, are you a lawyer? I had to laugh at your comment because it reminded me of how anal I am about such nonsense too.
I will always appreciate the bravery, hardwork, and sacrifice that people have made to give our flag any meaning at all. I now have the privilege of speaking my mind without unreasonable threat of harm. That being said, I do not feel like I am a very patriotic person. I am deeply disappointed in this country and embarrassed for my neighbors' actions. The flag represents stupidity, ignorance, and bigotry to me. I would like to think this perception of mine will change, but I doubt it. I think our country has failed and is in an unalterable, downward spiral. there are many countries that have our freedoms and then some. I would already have moved to one if not for my family. I don't think I'm comparable to a rat leaving a sinking ship either. I made the decision to stay on my own and will fight for causes I think are futile. What's it all matter in the cosmic scheme of things anyway, you know? This subject should not have to receive this attention. It is important in that this legislation slowly chips away at our freedoms, but the topic itself is a red herring. I think most of you know this. It is one of many "hot button" topics being thrown at us to divert our attention from big problems not being discussed in a public forum. People like us know better, but most everyone else falls for it unbelieveably well.

Rick said...

Though I support the right to burn the flag, I seriously think that the act totally undermines your statement. The focus shifts from your cause to the controversy generated as a result of flag burning.

Delta said...

Well generally yeah, people usually argue that we should not impose restrictions on something that symbolizes our freedom, or that flag burning is just an issue by Republicans to further control their ignorant, redneck base while they continue to plunge the country into despair at their financial or political benefit. But I thought it would be interesting to think about how flag burning could actually be useful and that perhaps not all people who have done it were out of line.

I seriously think that the act totally undermines your statement.

Just to be sure, let me say that the picture of the flag burning is from CNN, not from me burning the flag.

Anyway, I'll write a new article later tonight, I've been gone on vacation for the past 3 weeks.

Rick said...

Oh, oh...let me clarify myself. I am well aware that it not your picture depicting the situation. "Your" was an umbrella term I used for third person plural - can also be written as "their". I apologise for any misunderstanding.

Delta said...

Okay, that's what I figured it was, but wanted to make sure. Then in that case I agree with you that the controversial act distracts from the issue the same way in that I wouldn't have a religious discussion with a Christian while taking a crap on the bible (not that I do this either :))

Anonymous said...

Burning in effigy is an ancient tradition. Since the U.S. does not have a king or other single personification (despite the efforts of Emperor George II to found a dynasty), the flag is a good symbol.